Despite the Chargers getting the loss, I came away from the pre-season opener encouraged by what I saw. I will be going more in-depth into Thursday's game in the next few days, but here are five quick takeaways that I got from the game.
The offensive line was a particular area of interest going into the game. I will be doing a piece specifically on the offensive line shortly. Overall, I felt like the line was adequate. There were some good and bad. I didn't include them on this list because nothing stood out from that group.
Austin Ekeler is Ready for an Expanded Role
Yes, I know he fumbled inside the five yard, and that cannot happen. But, don't let that play completely takeaway from what Ekeler was able to do. Here is his statline from last night:
- 5 carries, 40 yards, 1 fumble
- 3 catches (on 3 targets) for 29 yards
My biggest concern for Ekeler is whether or not he could move into a more featured role and be consistent on a per-touch basis. While it's a small sample size, the first pre-season game was a passed test as Ekeler was consistently effective.
Ball security should always be taken seriously. So, that fumble matters, but I don't think it's something to be concerned about. Ekeler has three career fumbles. If it were an issue for him in the past, it would be a red flag, but it hasn't. Ekeler was good in both the run and pass game last night. With Gordon likely to hold out into the season, Ekeler's positive performance is the number one takeaway for me.
The Backup Quarterback Position is Better than I Thought it Was
I have not been a big fan of Tyrod Taylor throughout his career. I watched him a good deal when he played for Buffalo and had him on my list of players I was most frustrated to watch. He always seemed to settle for the short, easy throws no matter the down and distance. So, while he managed to build a reputation as a quarterback who takes care of the ball (16 total interceptions in his three years starting for the Bills), he was always amongst the league's worst at yards per attempt. Now, that could be a lack of weapons, or a scheme thing, but it's still the reason I was unimpressed with the Taylor signing.
But, last night Taylor was really good. He moved the offense, he was accurate even when throwing downfield (12 yards per attempt), and he even showed off his legs (34 yards). If you've been following camp, this shouldn't be that much of a surprise as Taylor has looked good throughout camp, but I was expecting the game situation to cause him to revert to his overly-conservative ways. That was not the case and made me feel much better about the team if anything were to happen to Philip Rivers.
Chris Peace Was Disruptive
Peace is not a player I expected to make the team, but a couple more showings like he had last night could change that. The fact that an undrafted player made a list of five takeaways shows that he stuck out (at least to me).
I will go through each of his plays over the weekend and see how well-rounded his game was, but from a pass-rush standpoint, I like what I saw. He had one sack and should have had another.
Easton Stick Should be the Number Three Quarterback
I think out of everyone who played last night, Stick was the most pleasant surprise for me. I questioned the selection of Stick because I wasn't sure he had the arm talent, but it looked alive last night.
If you take a look at the box score, Cardale Jones didn't appear to have a terrible night, but, if you watched the game, you saw that something was lacking when Jones was under center. There was far more excitement when the ball was in Stick's hands.
Stick threw a bad interception that is reflective of his inexperience, but those will happen. They only become problems if he can't shake them.
Here was the highlight of the night for Stick - an entertaining 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Typically, I consider it a red flag when a quarterback's best moment is a run, but he had some good moments with his arm as well.
I Don't Love the Showing from the Defensive Line
This is another one that, after rewatching the game, I may feel differently about, but I saw a lot of defensive lineman getting pushed around.
This should be taken in context. The Chargers, in true pre-season week one fashion, did not field their best unit. So, this was not the group we will see on Sundays, but it is a group of guys fighting for roster spots, and I didn't come away from that game feeling like anyone made a move to win that battle.
Like I said, I will be going through the game a few more times and will come back with some more analysis, but these are the five things that left an immediate impression on me last night.
Feel free to share your own below.